Belfast Telegraph

Queen's University students to debate on poppy sale ban

By Rebecca Black

Queen's University Students' Union is set to vote tonight on a controversial motion to ban the sale of poppies on its premises.

Student and Sinn Fein activist Sean Fearon is expected to propose the ban and has slated the Poppy Appeal as "politically charged".

The motion, which will be seconded by Kelly Ann McAteer, states: "This Council recognises that the Students' Union is an inclusive and neutral space for all students at Queen's University and therefore must offer a politically neutral environment regarding issues of the past to avoid offence and a sense of exclusion."

The motion concludes: "This Council, therefore, instructs the VP [vice-president] Equality & Diversity and the Union President to end the sale of poppies in the Students' Union to provide an end to political sponsorship of the Poppy Appeal, in the name of peace, inclusivity and progressivism."

The union's representative council is set to vote on the motion in a secret ballot.

Council members who are members of unionist parties have said they will vote against it.

SDLP-minded members have also indicated they will oppose it.

Cliona McCarney, who is a member of the SDLP, told the Belfast Telegraph she believed the motion is "very unhelpful".

"We are voting against the motion, it's not out of any great love for the symbol of the poppy, it's just the fact that the motion is discriminatory against a large section of students," she said.

"Equally if it was a motion to ban GAA tops – which came about at the University of Ulster at Jordanstown – I was completely against that as well.

"The union is constitutionally mandated to be a safe place for all students, and if we take the right away, where does it end?"

She said the council would be better discussing proposals to increase tuition fees.

Unionist parties have slammed the motion. DUP European candidate Diane Dodds said it was "regressive, backward-looking and an attempt to politicise the poppy".

Ulster Unionist Lisburn councillor Alex Redpath said he was "really disappointed" by the motion. Mr Redpath, who was speaker of the students' council in 2010, said he believed it has become a "less accepting" place.

"This sort of petty sectarianism has been displayed in the past by the University of Ulster Students' Union and the UUP's Youth Wing the Young Unionists successfully fought a campaign to stop the ban," he said.

TUV council candidate and Samuel Morrison said he was disgusted by the motion.

BACKGROUND

This is not the first controversial motion to be debated at the Students' Union at Queen's.

Last November, it voted to ban the playing of the Robin Thicke hit Blurred Lines from being played on its premises due to its 'anti-female' content.

It was the first time in its 113-year history that a song had been banned.

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